Tips for Organizing your Scrapbook Photos
By Lisa Fleming
As winter turns to spring each year, many of us turn our thoughts to spring cleaning. Our lists of projects typically include mundane tasks such as sweeping the garage, cleaning the gutters and washing the windows. So why not add a little pizzazz to your spring cleaning this year by tackling a fun project like organizing your scrapbook photos? “Fun?” you say. Well yes, organizing your photos can be fun if you have some tips on how to do it. Read on to learn how to gather, sort, label and store your photos so that they’re ready for your scrapbook albums.
Gather your photos
Throughout the years your photos may have ended up in various places - the attic, the garage, closets, desk drawers, etc. It's also likely that you have some in old photo albums and on your computer. The best way to get started is to bring all of your photos and photo albums to a workspace where you can spread them out (e.g., a large table) so that you can inventory what you have. It's up to you whether or not you want to take your photos out of your old photo albums at this point or just put a sticky note on each album to indicate what's in it. (Note: Many old photo albums are not photo-safe; the quicker you get your photos out of them, the better it is for your photos.) If you do have photos on your hard drive or online that haven't been printed yet, you can spend a few minutes at your computer jotting down some notes about those photos (e.g., which years they're from, what events they cover) and bring these notes to your workspace. Even if you don't intend on putting all of your photos into scrapbook albums, having them all organized will help you plan your scrapbook projects.
Sort your photos
While there are lots of different ways to sort your photos, many people find it useful to sort them chronologically and by event. If you have photos going back many years, you may want to sort them by decade or groups of years (e.g., early 90s, mid 90s, late 90s). Once you have them in a rough chronological order, you can then divide them by event and/or theme. Ideas for events/themes include vacations, holidays, birthdays, weddings, baby's first year, school, sports, clubs, military, legacy/heritage, family/general, etc. Keep in mind that there's no right or wrong way to sort them; everyone's photos are unique, so create categories that make sense for you. For example, some people have vacation scrapbook albums, and they keep all of their vacation photos together in those particular albums. Other people prefer to keep the photos from their vacations in a general scrapbook album that covers one or more calendar years. Either way is fine. The point of sorting your photos is to take an inventory of what you have and decide how you'd like to group them.
Label your photos
After your photos are sorted, it's a good idea to label some of them. To do this, you should use a photo labeling pen that is designed specifically for writing on the backs of photos. (Note: Regular pens and pencils should not be used because the ink and lead can damage your photos.) There's no need to label all of your photos; just label one or two of each group of photos so that you know what they are. For instance, if you've found some old birthday party photos you can just jot down whose birthday it was, the year, and how old he/she was. Or if you've found some old wedding photos you can jot down whose wedding it was, the year and where the wedding was held. The goal here is to make a few notes so that it's easier to remember what the photos are about when you're ready to put them into an album.
Store your photos
Once your photos are sorted and labeled, it's time to store them in a photo-safe manner until you're ready to work with them. To keep your photos safe, there are three elements you need to protect them from: heat, humidity and light. These elements contribute to the deterioration and fading of photographs. So photos should not be stored in attics, garages or unfinished basements, and they should not be left in the sunlight. You'll also want to be sure that any container you store your photos in is acid-free and lignin-free. Acid and lignin are substances found in paper (e.g., in some envelopes, accordion files, etc.), and these substances can harm your photos. A great way to store your photos in a safe and organized fashion is to use a photo case. Many scrapbook retailers carry them, and the cases come in a variety of sizes and colors.
And that’s all there is to it. So make this spring cleaning a “scrapbook spring cleaning” by getting your photos organized.[top of page] [more scrapbooking articles]